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How to get a test

If you have health insurance, the best option is to contact your doctor or health plan to get tested. Doctors and health plans are responsible for providing free COVID-19 testing to patients assigned to them. See more below.

If your employer or school requires a test, go through your workplace or school to get tested. They may offer free tests.

If you do not have health insurance, don’t worry. There are many ways to get free tests in LA County.

Visit a testing site
Los Angeles County

  • County-run facilities
    • If you don’t have health insurance, you can get a free COVID-19 test at a Public Health Center Nurse Only Clinic regardless of your immigration status. If you have insurance, you will need to provide insurance information.
    • Testing is available for children of all ages.
    • PCR and antigen tests are offered.
    • For locations and hours visit ph.lacounty.gov/chs/NurseClinic.pdf (Spanish).

  • Health center or pharmacy
    Visit Community-Based Testing Sites for COVID-19 webpage to find low or no-cost testing.
    • If you don’t have health insurance but have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, find a no-cost testing location at testinglocator.cdc.gov.
    • If you have insurance, you may need to provide insurance information.
      • If you are unable or unwilling to provide insurance information, some sites may charge a sliding scale fee.

Many pharmacies offer free COVID-19 tests. Visit their website or call to check if they require an appointment or charge fees. For information on independent pharmacies, visit doineedacovid19test.com.

Get free test kits

Scammers may steal people’s Medicare information, send them COVID-19 test kits and then bill Medicare. If you received a COVID-19 test kit that you did not order, do not use it and file a report right away. Scammers may also bill Medicare without sending any kits. If you suspect that Medicare is being charged for an item or service you didn’t get, or your Medicare card or number is stolen, report it. Call 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) or visit oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud.

With antigen self-tests, you collect the sample and do the test yourself. If the test is past its expiration date, it may still be good to use, learn more.


  • By mail from Public Health - for people who are age 65+ or unable to leave home.
    People who live in LA County who are age 65+ or unable to leave home can request two free tests. The tests are shipped within 5 business days.


  • In your community.
    Many food banks, senior centers, and other local organizations offer free test kits for pick-up.
Medical or Medicare card

  • At a pharmacy with your Medi-Cal card.
    Get the Medi-Cal card(s) for each person in your family. Show the card(s) to the pharmacist at the counter where prescriptions are dropped off. You can ask for 8 free at-home COVID-19 tests for each person each month. Select Medicare Advantage plans will also provide access to free at-home COVID-19 tests, contact your provider for more information.

  • Using other health insurance.
    As of November 11, 2023, many people with a health plan regulated by California are still able to get 8 at-home tests per month for each person on the plan.
    • You may be charged cost-sharing for tests received from an out-of-network provider. Call your health plan or visit their website to see if you can get free test kits or find an in-network provider.
    • If you are eligible for free tests, find out how to get them. Health plans vary – some offer free tests by mail or from a pharmacy. For other plans, you buy the tests and submit your receipt to get paid back for all or some of the cost.

For more information, view the CMS Waivers, Flexibilities, and the End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency FAQs.

Contact your doctor or health plan

If you have insurance, your health insurer is required to cover the entire cost of testing if a doctor orders the test. You do not need to have symptoms to request a test.

Insurance companies may not cover COVID-19 testing if done as part of an employee return-to-work program. If your employer requires a test, go through your job.

Los Angeles County

If your child has symptoms, it is best to get a test from their doctor or local health center. If you need help finding a doctor, call 2-1-1 or visit 211LA. You can also find a health center near you at HRSA.gov.

Many County-sponsored sites test children of any age. But check before you go.

The age limit for testing children at different pharmacies vary. Check with your preferred pharmacy:

If you plan to use an antigen test, check the box for the age limit.

Types of tests

There are different types of COVID-19 tests.

Viral tests are swab or saliva tests that look for current infection. The main types are antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

  • Antigen tests are rapid tests that give results in 10-30 minutes. Most self-tests are antigen tests. Antigen tests are not as good at detecting the COVID-19 virus as PCR tests, meaning you might get a false negative result. For this reason, the FDA recommends repeating negative antigen tests.
  • PCR tests, also called nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), are more likely to detect the COVID-19 virus than antigen tests. They are often collected by a healthcare provider and sent to a laboratory for testing. It may take 1-3 days to get results.

Antibody tests are blood tests that look for past infection. They are not used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection. See CDC antibody tests.

For more information, see CDC COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know.

When to test

If you have new cough, cold, or COVID-19 symptoms, you should test immediately.* If you test negative, it is recommended that you test again 48 hours later. Make sure you follow all the guidelines for individuals who are sick with cough, cold, or COVID-19 symptoms.

If you do not have symptoms but have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should test* 3-5 days after your last exposure. This is especially important if you are at higher risk of severe disease and would benefit from treatment, or you have contact with people who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection. Follow all steps for close contacts.

*If you tested positive in the last 90 days, antigen testing is preferred. Some tests, especially PCR tests, may stay positive for up to 90 days (antigen tests may be positive for up to 30 days). It is also possible to get reinfected within 90 days. This can make it hard to know what a positive test means in the first few months after an infection.

See CDC COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know for more information on when to test, choosing a test, and interpreting your test results.

How to use a self-test

Video also available in Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). Manufacturers' instructional videos are available here.

  • Check the expiration date. If an antigen self-test is past its expiration date, it may still be good to use. Follow the FDA expiration date extension information below to see if you can still use the test.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s step by step instructions exactly.
    The instructions are in the test kit box. They include how to interpret the test results.
  • Keep all parts of the test kit out of reach of children and pets before and after use.
    Supervise children when testing. The chemicals and small parts can cause harm if they are used incorrectly.
  • Make sure that you understand your test results  - read the results section on the instructions that come with the test. If you get a negative result follow the recommendations for repeat testing.

For more information on home test kits, visit the CDC self-testing website.

How to check if you can use the test beyond its expiration date
  • Most at-home tests can be safely used past the date on the box. Check the FDA’s At-Home COVID-19 Test page to see if the expiration date of your test kit has been extended. Note, the expiration date on the box is printed as year- month - day. For example, 2023 11 20 means November 20, 2023.

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

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